Deisgn for the Visually Impaired

Hi all,

I am a fourth year Product Design student soon to start my final year!

After researching many different areas, I have come to a rough decision to something to aid the visually impaired.

My concept is in two parts firstly a watering can which only disperses the desired amount of water by the user, and secondly sensors which tell the user wheather the plants need watering or not through touch rather than sight or sound.

Currently I am struggling to get feedback from end-users on wheather this product would be feasible, so I would like to ask you your opinions?!

Does anyone have previous experience designing products for this user group?

Thanks a bunch guys!!!


Hate to piss on your cornflakes, but this sounds like you’ve been sitting around trying to think of what “The Visually Impaired” might need in their life and then marrying it with a technology that may or may not exist.

At risk of being presumptuous, I would suggest going out and talking to a minimum of 5 people with visual impairments and ask them what they might need in their life.

I agree! I don’t think you nailed it with your two ideas! Knowing a few visually impaired people, I can tell you, that they are really good at pouring and stuff…even making cocktails is not a problem for them!
Here is one project I know from Sebastian Ritzler…He made an interactive guidance cane for the blind!

yup, sorry, but you have a solution looking for a problem there. The fact that you’ve got an idea what you want to design before you’ve even spoken to anyone in your target group, is not a good sign… visually impaired device sounds good, but find out what they need first, then get an idea for a solution…


Hi guys,

Thanks for the quick responses!

I think your right I should really research before I come up with an idea which is for a user group I am not in!

I think I got a bit carried away, you know what its like in the time leading up to start your final year!!

My problem is I have researched many areas of design so far looking for possible things which will spark ideas for a product, so far, all have either already been done or are too-complicated or not complicated enough!

So I end up thinking of products rather than examining user groups or areas?!

However I intend to speak to some Visually impaired groups soon, and have some contacts set up.

Any hints or suggestions of other areas I could look into which would get me noticed in my final year?

Thanks again,


p.s. That design by Sebastian Ritzler Is great I had just thought of looking into that area, damn?!

you are not so much on the wrong track as maybe just jumped the gun. the visually impaired target market can be a good one (and is often unaddressed by designers wanting to do jazzy, shiny looking things).

I’d suggest to maybe narrow down your scope in terms of workflow (ie. daily chores, workplace, out in town, communications, etc.) then set off to contact some local visually impaired people, troll the interwebs and be in touch with some foundations/groups to find problems that need addressing. I’m sure you’ll find something interesting!

keep us posted and best of luck,


My wife used to work at a school for visually impaired kids… a lot of products need to be designed there. I would definitely see if their is some kind of group or institute in your area and talk to some folks.

I think it’s possible to find something interesting in that area too! It’s just that one tends to rush things at the beginning of a project…same with me!

I just remembered a phone concept for the visually impaired…I think it’s great, that there’s no need for braille because of the angled keys. Should be interesting to see what you finally decide to go for.

Hi guys!

Thanks for the advice,

Since last post i’ve been busy researching, have set up interviews with visually impaired groups, to see existing products etc…

Also I’ve recently discovered that 73 percent of visually impaired people in the UK of a workign age are un-employed!! so am thinking this may be an area to look into.

I now believe that design for the visually impaired shouldn’t be “fit for purpose” with very little aesthetics, i think there are too many badly designed products on the market!

For example I found these really cool products which zoom in on text for a user so they can read it more easily.

Great function, however I think if you had one of these in the street you would look very james bond esque! Perhaps the visually impaired would prefer a more supbtle option.

Nice phone concept flix, have you got the link to the that website of that phone?

I’ll let you know progress with concepts asap!



sounds a lot better now! Seems like an interesting field! Like you said, I think it’s important that the design doesn’t stigmatize the visually impaired!
Oh, I don’t know what the phones website is…I found it in last years annual design award issue of I.D. mag. But I think you will find information about it on some gadget sites!


After a bit more research, here is my original idea plus a few concepts!

An aid to help push in 3 pin plugs into sockets, bent piece of plastic with simple slot.

A mug which vibrates or makes a noise when its full (there is a similar product out there but its over-priced and hard to clean!)

A drill to help with DIY
Has bulit in talking/vibrating spirit level, when drill is held level,
A torch which shines on the piece being worked on.

A thermostat which uses contrasting colours and bumps to show temperature change.

Sensory Camera for the blind (ok sounds a bit strange) but why can’t blind people have some kind of “camera” it wouldn’t take pictures, but would perhaps store a smell sound or texture of an object?
A variation of this for example could be used in the garden or kitchen. Having smells stored in it already, it would help the visually impaired to identify the smells of vegetables fruit or herbs etc.

Check out the quick sketches attached.



I don’t know the ratio of 100% blind- to functionally blind- to partially blind, but you might concentrate in the tactile aspects of whatever idea you pursue, plus the idea of not stigmatizing the people or their tools with sore thumb objects. DIY stuff would be great- I like the drill idea, but don’t forget that there are already tools to help guide drills. My own Dad is blind and he likes to work on projects + he likes gadgets (and there are oh so many of those!).

There is definitely a great deal of openings for DIY gear- both from the standpoint of people that are predisposed to creating with their hands, as well as enabling and independence in general.

On the gadget front, as A/V equipment gets more and more high-tech, there are more buttons that multi-task and require visual aids to decipher- the latest and greatest could use an overhaul that makes it useful to this segment of the population. A lot of the tech stuff has a voice added to it (think watches)- but that’s not the best solution for everything!

Just a couple of thoughts,


Hi guys,

It works out about 3% of people in the UK who are visually impaired, are actually blind, quite low, so as you say tactile aspects are the places to look.

I have reached a dilemma, carry on researching, and find a product, which really fits the bill and is useful for all visually impaired people?

Alternatively, go with the easy option and design

A watering can for the visually impaired which

Disperses only just enough water for the plant,
Has built in/separate moisture sensors,
Can help guide the user to the plant or area of watering,
Would be usable with one arm only.

My lecturers feel this product fits the bill as far as marks are concerned it would “tick all the boxes.” However I am still not really sure it’s a good project?

What do you guys think? Risk being a bit late for submission and find the perfect product for the visually impaired, or go with the easy option, which perhaps would be a worse perhaps “pointless” yet it would still get me good marks?

Help? Two days to go!


Mate i’m going through the exact same thing my advice to echo what everyone else has said:

  • Do not think of a product now.

  • If you say design for the visually impared, you’ve had a look at what they are struggling with then focus on an area.

  • Think of a scenario, anything when written down on can sound rubbish like i dunno a new household appliance but its in the exection - look at the electrolux design competition as evidence.

  • you’ve allready identified most are un employed… why - thats the question you should be asking yourself? what specifically are they struggling with? Just think if you could get all those people out to work… what an acheivement that would be. One would assume there would be a coherrent theme stoping them from doing work.

  • Also in regards to carrying on researching comment? er yes research ask questions do some doodles, ask more questions do more doodles. Research doesnt just stop at a certain point it carrys on through out the project… everything new you learn is technically research.

  • Most important advice i can give you… HAVE FUN your doing it for a year of your life so make sure you can sustain a high level of interest through out. This after all is the coolest degree you can do.

Hate to say it but marks are not everything 2:1 1st i have been told by Pro’s there is no real difference its the quality of work and ideas in your folio pro’s will judge you on. As higlighted earlier pro designers, who you will be sending your portfolio away too will spot the “he has sat at his desk and thought about” type project.

Not saying its easy, i have been beating myself up about my direction ensuring its user centred.

I would say though are your lectures making you decided upon an awesome product 2 weeks into the semster or is that your own thinking? If its the lectures i would personally question this as who in their right mind can come up with the perfect awesome product in 2 weeks?

Thats how i feel anyway. Anything completely user centered with strong evidence wand has been executed well will stand the toughest scruiteny

From the front page…

Hi Sketchme,

Sorry about the slow response, been busy!

I agree with what you are saying, this is the coolest degree you can do with total freedom of choice!

Also yes, basically this is what had happened to us with uni.
Ok we had all summer and our third year work placement to “think of” a product, however really what we should have been doing was thinking of a problem’ed area, refine our research to get in the end a much more viable and honed “user centred” product!

Right now, the concept has been okayed with uni and I have to go with it.
So the plan is now to take a step back from the idea of designing a “watering can”, instead concentrate more on the problem of watering plants for the visually impaired.
This will enable me to develop the concept, and make it more useful for someone who is Visually Impaired and likes to Garden.

What sort of area are you looking into designing for if you do not mind me asking?

Cheers for the advice! :slight_smile:


P.S. Good watch idea, however after researching I found really not many Visually Impaired people can actually read brail?!

Your situation sounds similar to mine however, i was aware prior that thinking of a product first never yeilds good results. I also dedicated a fair amount of time whilst on placement to researching broad fuzzy front end topics to come to univeristy prepared. This wasn’t taught to me via the Uni, infact the Uni although they claim the fuzzy front end stuff still by week 2 want to know what your designing.

I had several broad areas i wanted to try and several criteria to match:

firstly this is the creme de la creme of my portfolio so make sure what i chose i could go in depth in user related stuff, and show of my skills and push boundaries. I.e do a topic i new nothing about

I also wanted to make new designers in london. So i wanted to ensure the area i went into allowed for good design in both form and function, and also totally new take on an area. There are like 120 people on our course in the final year so i need to stand out from the crowd. Also several comments from pro’s who go say how its the same old crap different year

And lastly i wanted to do something fun and would keep me inspired. For inspired is by doing something challenging and again delving into the unknown.

Some of the the areas i looked at were pretty broad i wont say them all and i wont say my current one either until i’ve sorted the IP out. I did highlight a lot of potential good design areas and may develop them in the future but one which was probably my weakest was:

Child centred medical design again because i wanted to help people. This was tough getting into hospitals but i did, i wanted to try and see the failings in current equipment where it could be improved upon… allowing also the styling side because its children. Didn’t persue this as i felt i was being to heavily influenced by Donn Kohh’s cerebal pausy walker, which is awesome.

But i did have 4-5 strong fuzzy front end proposals, i wouldnt say that was luck i would say more persitance and time. It certaintly for me has paid off.

Gotta say mate you have just identified again another good insight if its true… alot of blind people cant read braile… so surely a braile watch would be useless… what do they know , what can they interpret.

Anyway best of luck with the watering can.